Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi said that NBA player Jason Collins “is” simply Jackie Robinson in a Tuesday tweet from his verified account.
Collins came out on Monday, and he became the first male openly gay athlete in major professional team sports in the United States.
Jason Collins is Jackie Robinson.
— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) April 30, 2013
The direct comparison is inaccurate–and borderline insulting to Robinson–for many reasons. Robinson could not eat at the same restaurants, drink from the same drinking fountains, or sleep in the same hotels as his white teammates in segregated cities during the season and spring training. Gays, unlike blacks at the time, can vote without any problems today, are celebrated in the popular culture, and do not have vicious dogs chasing after them, fire hoses turned on them, or schools refusing to admit them. There are no water fountains for “straights only.” And the participation of gays in sports is celebrated almost universally by the popular culture and media. Anti-gay rhetoric or comments are not tolerated, unlike the racism directed at Robinson at the time.
Collins will also not have to fear for his life like Robinson did before and after he crossed the white lines on the field to take his position, as the late historian Jules Tygiel once wrote. There are numerous other reasons, including how Robinson really carried the weight of his whole race because he had to succeed–both on the field and in temperament in a way Collins will never have to–that make this direct comparison incomprehensible, but that has not prevented Taibbi in the past from writing nonsense.
This is the writer, after all, who hours after learning of Andrew Breitbart’s passing, wrote a piece that referred to him as a “douche” and said it was “good”–in the nicest possible way, he claimed–that he had died.